By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Kristin Black has only been the new Northborough Health Agent since Oct. 13, but already has an impressive list of accomplishments and initiatives. Her previous experience as Health Director in Uxbridge has helped her to quickly transition to the position in the middle of a pandemic.
She said that the integration to her new role was made easier because the “stability of the staff and support staff in the office are fabulous.”
Starting new job as health agent in a pandemic
Black is excited to be a part of the Northborough town administration – it’s closer to home, she’s familiar with the community, and is excited to work in a town with such an excellent reputation for staff and stability of management overall. Her goal is to be successful and effective in helping the community, especially during a public health crisis.
An advantage she has is that Northborough is similar in size as Uxbridge and she already has a good working relationship established with other public health officials.
“There are a lot of similar initiatives and education outreach materials developed in my previous community that can be modified to meet the needs of Northborough,” Black said.
She has revamped the town website COVID-19 page to make it easier for residents and businesses to access up-to-date information and comprehensive resources. This is important especially as the town reported the largest peak of positive cases since the start of the pandemic on Dec. 10 and was elevated to a high risk community.
Reaching out to the community
Business outreach and education has been a top priority as the state regulations can be overwhelming to many businesses that are already struggling.
“What I have learned in talking with businesses is that they want to do the right thing,” Black said. “Businesses don’t have time to listen to every update…they need to know how it will impact their business.”
Although COVID-19 is consuming much of her time, Black also is challenged by the backlog of work, such as food inspections, that has accumulated as the position was vacant for six months.
A new food inspection software will start being used to help to improve efficiency and help food establishments understand any violations.
She will work with other town departments, such as schools and the recreation department, to continue existing outreach educational initiatives in areas of mental health, substance abuse, and childhood obesity.
A successful town flu clinic was coordinated at the senior center on Dec. 7, where 150 people were vaccinated.
A sharps disposal program is also in the works, something that most health departments already offer their residents for free. The program will ensure that residents have an easy, safe and secure way to dispose of needles, syringes and other sharps on a regular basis. In the past, sharps were collected once a year at the town’s Hazardous Waste Day. Black hopes to have that program up and running in January.
She wants to let residents know that the Health Department is available to support them.
“While our department is obviously busier than usual,” Black said. “We still are staffed and have people in the office. We respond every day to calls, emails and concerns.”